Racism in Health, It’s alive and well

I have posted many stories of what people have had to face when dealing with the health system. my last post showed the story of a non Aboriginal person and what they went through, when it was thought they were Aboriginal.

I thought this was pertinent, especially considering what Gurrumul went through in a Darwin hospital,  I am showing this story and another recent story to show that it is happening all the time.


Gurrumul hospital records wrongly say singer unsuitable for liver transplant, doctor says

Updated Fri at 4:40pm

The doctor who treats Indigenous singer Gurrumul has said staff at Royal Darwin Hospital wrongly concluded in patient records that the entertainer was unsuitable for a liver transplant.

Key points:

  • Gurrumul’s doctor says hospital notes could have “serious consequences” in future
  • Doctor says concerns about Gurrumul’s alcohol intake are false
  • Prominent Aboriginal health worker says more Yolngu people needed at Royal Darwin Hospital

Royal Darwin Hospital has been in the spotlight all week amid accusations Gurrumul was racially profiled and presumed by staff to be a drinker, because he is Aboriginal.

This week, management for the 47-year-old musician said Gurrumul was left to languish with internal bleeding for eight hours after he was taken to the emergency department on March 27.

Gurrumul’s doctor, Paul Lawton, said it was wrongly assumed the health issues were related to alcohol when they were in fact the result of having had hepatitis B as a child.

He said while Gurrumul did not need a liver transplant at the moment, an inaccurate statement in hospital notes – that he was unsuitable for the procedure – could have serious consequences in the future.

“I think it is actually reasonable to draw a line between concerns about Gurrumul’s alcohol intake, which are false, but have been recorded and this statement, since one of the major reasons that a liver transplant is not done is people continuing to drink alcohol,” Dr Lawton said.

Gurrumul’s care appropriate says Health Service

The Top End Health Service, which oversees service delivery at the hospital, said it had reviewed the case and was satisfied Gurrumul’s care was timely and appropriate.

This week, NT Health Minister John Elferink claimed the mistreatment allegations may have been a publicity stunt.

Those allegations have been rejected by Dr Lawford.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said he was awaiting a full report into the treatment of Gurrumul by Royal Darwin Hospital.

The hospital has said it will not discuss patient details but that a past history of alcohol use does not necessarily preclude a person as suitable for an organ transplant.

My second story is about Ambulance services

Compensation awarded to family of Aboriginal man who died waiting for ambulance

Updated 4 Mar 2016, 5:49pm

The family of a young Aboriginal man who died while waiting for an ambulance has been awarded $220,000 compensation.

Geoffrey Yuke was staying with family and friends at an Aboriginal community near Lismore on September 23, 2006 when he began to experience chest pains.

The 24-year-old called Triple 0, explaining his condition and asking for help.

What followed was a lengthy, confusing and ultimately fatal wait for an ambulance.

The family’s lawyer Tracey Randall said the ambulance Mr Yuke called had been delayed because the Box Ridge community where he was staying was subject to a Category A caution note.

In a statement, the New South Wales Ambulance Service defined a caution note as a note attached to an address where a paramedic had been assaulted or threatened while attending a patient.

The note served to warn paramedics who attended the premises in future of a potential threat to their safety.

Under NSW Ambulance protocols, a Category A caution note attached to an address requires paramedics to stand-off and wait for police to attend before entering the premises.

Family shocked by inquest findings

It was not until more than a year after Mr Yuke’s death that his family discovered what had happened, during a coronial inquest.

I think we hear so much in the media about the disparities in health between Aboriginal people and the wider community, and something like this brings home why those disparities exist.

Tracey Randall, solicitor

His sister Margaret Yuke said she had been shocked by what was revealed.

“What I heard at the inquest was heartbreaking for me because I did not know what was going on,” Ms Yuke said.

“Everyone just told me that he had a heart attack, and the police turned up at my door in the early hours of the morning and told me that my younger brother had passed away.”

The inquest found Mr Yuke had died from an undiagnosed congenital heart condition.

The ambulance service said the caution note policy not only protected paramedics, but also ensured they could effectively treat patients with police back-up present to protect them if the patient or someone else posed any kind of threat.

The service said the coroner had been satisfied the Category A caution note placed on the Box Ridge address in 2006 had been appropriate.

Campaign for justice

After the inquest, the findings were left in the hands of Ms Yuke.

“When the coroner gave me all them big folders, I thought to myself I’ve got to do something about this,” she said.

She took the bundle to Lismore solicitor Ms Randall and asked her to take a look.

What followed was a campaign for justice for her nieces and nephews, left fatherless by her brother’s unexpected death.

“What happened to him was very wrong, but I thought about his children and he would have done the same thing for me,” Ms Yuke said.

Dying a slow death not far from hospital

Ms Randall said she had been moved by what she read.

“It was really harrowing reading, the coronial transcript, it was really sad,” Ms Randall said.

“I think we hear so much in the media about the disparities in health between Aboriginal people and the wider community, and something like this brings home why those disparities exist,” she said.

“Here’s a young man who had a heart condition that he didn’t know about, dying a slow death not that far from a major regional town with a hospital.

“I would hope there’s a firm protocol now between the New South Wales Ambulance Service and the police force in relation to responding to calls like this, because part of the problem with the delay [in getting to the patient] was poor communication.”

The family of Geoffrey Yuke was awarded $220,000 in the Lismore District Court last week.

In a statement the New South Wales Ambulance Service apologised to the family of Mr Yuke for the distress caused to them.

The service said it currently had no official caution note in place for Box Ridge.

Ms Yuke said it had been a bittersweet day in court last week.

“He was a wonderful young man. He liked to take the young brothers out fishing and swimming at Box Ridge. Now they all miss him,” Ms Yuke said.

About proudblacksista

An Aboriginal woman. mother of 4 diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour 7 years ago.I want to share my story to help others. I am working to help other Aboriginal people face the battles of Cancer. Email me with your stories or concerns at aboriginalcancer.com View all posts by proudblacksista

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